Two leading figures in the co-operative movement are to bow out after the proposed merger between the Co-operative Group and United Co-operatives was rubberstamped by members of the two societies this week.

Guy McCracken, chief executive for food retail at the Co-operative Group, has been named as chief executive for food retail of the enlarged society but he will step down in 12 months time when he retires.

McCracken was appointed in May 2005 and has led a turnaround of the group's food business. Tim Hurrell, currently general manager of food at United Co-operatives, has been appointed chief executive for food retail designate and will succeed McCracken.

Martin Beaumont, chief executive of the Co-operative Group, who announced in October last year that he would retire in October 2007 after six years, has brought this forward to July when the societies merge.

United Co-op chief executive Peter Marks, who was named as CEO of the enlarged society in March, said the new team would start work immediately to create "one business in one year". The team plans to improve and extend its portfolio of more than 2,300 food stores.

United is to adopt 'The Co-operative' fascia, launched in 2005 to unify branding. However, regional societies could throw a spanner in the works.

This week, East of England Co-op CEO Richard Samson said that although it planned to rebrand 50 of its 137 food stores this year, it would stick to its own branding because the society was only 18 months old and wanted to promote its own fascia.

Meanwhile, as part of the shake up, Zoe Morgan, director of marketing at the Co-operative Group, is to leave. Patrick Allen, marketing director for United, will take on the role in the enlarged society.